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Schoenberg Quartet Koa
 
A powerful 12-fret optimized for fingerstyle.
August 9, 2021
 

Eric Schoenberg has been a force in the guitar world ever since the release of The New Ragtime Guitar, an album of duets with his cousin, Dave Laibman in 1971. From performing with Kicking Mule Records tours to writing liner notes to Pierre Bensusan’s first album to publishing one of the first books of fingerstyle arrangements of Beatles tunes (Fingerpicking Beatles), Eric is a widely respected authority on solo guitar, and anyone who has been fortunate to hear him perform will attest to his beautiful tone and tasteful playing. But there is more. In the 1980s, he began working with luthier Dana Bourgeois and Martin Guitars to create his own line of Schoenberg Guitars, which helped revive the OM design, a model Martin hadn’t built since the early 1930s. In the years since, Eric has worked with several luthiers to build Schoenberg guitars; his shop in Tiburon, California has become a hub for San Francisco Bay Area guitar aficionados; and his line of instruments has grown from primarily being hot-rodded OMs (which he calls “Soloist”) to include several other vintage-inspired designs. Eric’s latest brainchild is the Quartet; essentially a 0000 body modified for a 12-fret configuration. I recently had a chance to check out one of these new guitars in the Peghead Nation video studio. 

The guitar I checked out was built by luthier Randall Kramer, who has built Schoenbergs, as well as his own instruments, for several years. Based in Truckee, California, Randall is a meticulous craftsman. As indicated by the model name, the Quartet Koa is built with koa back and sides, and what a fine set it is: heavily figured, it has multi-hued color and beautiful appearance throughout. The guitar’s top is made of Italian spruce, which is also of excellent quality. 

In creating the Quartet body, Eric essentially reversed the process Martin used when it switched most of its models from neck/body joints at the 12th fret to necks with 14 frets clear of the body in the early 1930s. While Martin shortened the bodies and modified the upper bouts of 0, 00, 000, and dreadnought bodies, Eric took the 16-inch-wide 0000/M-style body (which wasn’t introduced as a flattop model until the 1970s and has traditionally been a 14-fret design) and stretched it to give it an outline similar to a 12-fret 000, but with a slightly larger size. Our demo Quartet includes a fairly deep cutaway, giving it more of a contemporary vibe and creating easy access to the highest regions of the fingerboard. One integral element of the Schoenberg Soloist is its relatively wide string-spacing of 2⅜ inches at the saddle (similar to vintage OMs), and this is true of the Quartet as well. On this guitar, it’s matched with a nut-width of 1¹³/₁₆ inches, and its relatively shallow neck profile provides a feel not unlike that of a classical guitar. 

I’m primarily a fingerstyle player, and I found the Quartet Koa to be an incredibly capable guitar that is tons of fun to play. The setup and playability are excellent, and from the first pluck, the guitar displayed a huge dynamic range, great bottom end, and a complex tonality, even when played softly. The long scale provided plenty of string tension when I tuned to a low C tuning, where the guitar sounded just as balanced as it did in standard. 

Overall, I found the Quartet to be a phenomenal fingerstyle guitar. It has the power needed for completely acoustic performance settings, as well as a full range of sounds to cover diverse tunings and playing styles, and it felt great. The 12-fret 0000 concept really works, and my hat is off to Eric Schoenberg for the idea, and Randall Kramer for the execution!

SPECS: 12-fret 0000 body with cutaway. Italian spruce top. Koa back and sides. X bracing. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¹³/₁₆-inch nut width. 2⅜-inch string spacing at the saddle. Open-back Schaller tuning machines. Made in the USA. $10,500. Om28.com

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    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com